What is your God-bearing image? Stone or thimble…or…?
Tonight as we left the first of the Lent’s Sacred Conversations at my church we were given a small stone. On the stone it said I Am God. I put it in my pocket and was glad to have something to touch now and again, just to make sure God was there. And this reminded of something Rilke said in Letters to a Young Poet. Rilke is encouraging the young poet to the writer’s life, a life focused on his work and status and vocation. A kind of single-mindedness and simplicity of childhood. And the poet must have wondered if he had somehow lost God. And Rilke asks Do you believe anyone who really has him could lose him like a little stone…?
I put the stone in my pocket recalling another place in Rilke’s Stories of God entitled How the Thimble Came To Be God. In the story a little boy named Hans has said his evening prayers. He feels something in his folded hands soft and warm, like a little bird. And he hurries to finish his prayers so he can open his hands, but when he does there is nothing there. The children he was telling this to were silent, perplexed. But then Hans said “How stupid. Anything can be God.” So the children searched for something to be God. Then little Resi finds a thimble which is bright, as if made of silver, and for its beauty’s sake it become God. And the children each took their turns carrying God around in their pockets. After a few days the children were playing and one asked Who has God now? And little Maria, who had had God last, searched in her pockets and realized he must have fallen out while they were playing. She was very distressed and after all the other children had gone home, she kept search everywhere for the little thimble. Some tried to help her; but no one could find it. As it grew dark and she was about to give up, a stranger came along and asked her what she was looking for. Almost in tears, little Maria says, I am looking for God. The stranger smiles down at her, taking her by the hand, she lets herself be led as if all were well now. Along the way the stranger says Look! What a beautiful thimble I have found today.
So I’ve taken my little God-rock that the stranger gave me and put it on my desk where I have a day job. Sometimes I pick it up and take it with me to get coffee or on a break. Each morning as I leave Canaan and drive across the seemingly endless concrete highways snaking my way to Egypt to toil in Pharaoh’s glass pyramid, I know that God is there waiting for me, my God-rock greeting me, my strength throughout the day, pocket companion, never far from reach. A rock and a reminder.